The animated series ‘The Mysterious Cities of Gold’ gained a large audience in Poland at the end of the 90’s and I used to watch it with bursting excitement. I did not expect that travelling would become my passion and that I would have the chance to impersonate the show’s main character, Esteban, who flies on a golden condor in search of the Cities of Gold. My condor, Boeing 767, was not made of gold, sadly, but it accomplished its mission successfully when it got me from Frankfurt straight to Cancun.
My first stop – the Riviera Maya. Where else to celebrate a boisterous arrival if not in the crazy Hard Rock Hotel? The hotel has attracted the enthusiasts of loud music and dancing by the swimming pool for many years. It was great to see people enjoying every single moment spent together in a restaurant, theatre, bar, on a sports field, at the beach or in a night club. Hard Rock is a full package. After checking-in it was high time to say hello to Mexico in local style. ‘Tequila time!’ I thought and the rest of my evening went by while watching animations, listening to DJ music and soaking my feet rhythmically in the pool together with other guests. In the hotel’s minibar there are 4 bottles of strong liquors waiting for each guest so the party can last till the crack of dawn. Such a rich all-inclusive offer can be envied by many hotels.
The next day I went to the heart of the Riviera Maya – to Playa Del Carmen. It is considered the cradle of most luxurious hotels situated just steps from a snow-white beach. Mayakoba Resorts including Rosewood, Banyan Tree and Fairmont, take the lead. These hotels are located in a landscape garden which scenery is dominated by mangrove forests inhabited by hundreds species of birds, mammals and, of course, iguanas. Dense bush is interspersed with paths ideal for a bike ride or jogging and river canals where boats transporting guests to the beach operate. The river teems with turtles and fish. During my cruise I got to know that the hotel’s mascot is a young crocodile called Sophie which often basks in the sun next to the golf course. ‘Such things can happen only in Mexico,’ I commented on this news swallowing saliva slowly and continued my careful observation of the crystal clear water surrounding my boat.
After three days spent on the 11-kilometre Riviera Maya I was leaving paradise in search of Maya temples in land with sadness in my eyes, but eager to experience the next Mexican adventures. Built in the 17th century Hacienda Uayamon was the starting point of my quest. Word ‘uayamon’ in Mayan language literally means ‘let’s start’. It is great accommodation close to Edzna – discovered in the 20th century and one of the oldest Mayan cities dating back to the 4th century BC.
Haciendas cannot be omitted when talking about Yucatan. They are rural mansions which belonged to European conquistadors in the past and recently they have been restored and converted into luxury hotels and restaurants. Haciendas were my haven during the following week. Uyamon, Temozon and Santa Rosa, belonging to the Luxury Collection, are real jewels. Their rooms were remade from their former hosts’ bedrooms, guest rooms, spaces for servants and slaves as well as hospital areas, chapels and stables. Their walls hide turbulent stories, so they provide unforgettable experiences. It is a unique place far from civilization. What is more, the unrepeatable atmosphere of the Yucatan is enhanced by the sounds of fauna and flora waking up in the morning and the sight of ubiquitous iguanas.
Of course, any expectations of excellent service and waiters with refined manners and fluent English go in vain, but this is not the point. The Mayan people who work in haciendas are members of local communities and they are in seventh heaven if they find any job. They have learnt much, but they are not modern, lost somewhere between epochs and they make up for their flaws with a warm smile and a low bow. I had ordered tea, but I got a kettle with water and sugar – somebody had forgotten about the tea itself. It did not matter, though. Tea is not like iguanas. All is not lost that is delayed. After all, I had tequila to satisfy my thirst.
The essence of my journey was getting to know the Mayan world through discovering the ruins of cities and temples as well as their art and history. In Santa Rosa I myself met Mayan descendants. They did not look like Mexicans from the city and I suddenly realised that there are race differences. The Mayan people have more slanted eyes and more prominent cheekbones and these features are typical of Indians. It turned out that they have preserved their distinctive language and they practice their own craft.
Every day after sightseeing we would have a rest in private haciendas. All over the place there was nobody besides the service and buildings were exclusively at our disposal. ‘Enormous swimming pool, hand-painted interiors, columns and ornaments – everything belongs to me today,’ I thought to myself. An egoistic gleam appeared in my eyes. Before I wore my swimming trunks the service had treated me with tequila and fruit. ‘Nothing can beat Mexican hospitality, salud!’
In the private mansions there were numerous attractions waiting for me and cenotes were one of them. They are deep water pits carved in calcareous rocks. On the peninsula there are neither rivers nor lakes so the rainwater hollowed underground or open pit caves connected with aquifer resources. A jump to shimmering ink-like water deep for 50 metres ahead of me. Adrenaline goes through the roof. 3… 2… 1… ‘I’m alive!’ I made it! It was amazing! If I had been within range, I would have boasted about it to the whole world. ‘Waiter!’
The land of the Maya started to enrapture me, more and more every day. Dinners under a big Ceiba tree, lunch in the ruins of an old chapel, spa treatments in hidden caves, a cruise among pink flamingos, mezcal vodka sampling on enormous agave plantations – different attractions daily. Even margaritas drunk in the evening tasted differently than in Poland – was it tequila or the breath-taking panoramic view of the old city from the roof of Puerta Campeche? The days started to pass quickly and I did not want to leave at all.
The final point of my journey was a trip to Chichén Itzá. It had been mentioned since the very beginning and supposed to be the culmination of sensations. Chichén Itzáis a Maya city from the 4-6th century where sacrifices from men were immolated in deep cenotes. The sight was announced one of the New7Wonders of the World. I was about to see a multimedia show presented in the ruins of a temple with a sculpture of a giant snake.
In the late evening, we climbed to the top in the part of the ancient city which is normally closed for visitors. Suddenly, gentle sounds started coming from the ruins. We held our breaths and put our mobiles aside. A private concert by a Mayan flautist performed at sunset at the top of the temple. Could a better scenery be even imagined? This melody took me back in time. A mystic aura was omnipresent. We did not move until dawn. ‘Mission accomplished,’ I smiled with pride. I finally discovered the Mysterious Cities of Gold.